the Battle with Typhoon Frank (International Codename: Fengshen) and a Day with the Stars
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This is one of the most ironic days I have this year - when I was sooo happy and surprised and yes, sooo frightened.
It was just one of those special days when I really look forward to coming home after a week of endless meetings and strategy writings. My flight with PAL last Saturday was scheduled at 10:40 AM and so coming from Quezon City, i opted to leave the hotel at 7:30 AM. My other colleagues who were flying to Davao and Cagayan de Oro left earlier to catch their 4:30 flight (ugh.. thank goodness mine isn't as early otherwise I wouldn't have slept at all for fear of missing my flight).
It was not a great morning since it was already raining hard. I wasn't surprised tho knowing there was a typhoon brewing as reported in the news.
What I didn't expect was that the typhoon would gain strength soon.
Riding the dollar taxi (which is my favorite contact in Manila), I arrived NAIA's Centennial airport by 9 am and of course, proceeded to the check-in counter.
A wonderful surprise was waiting for me there.
While patiently waiting in counter number 19 to check-in my luggage, the airport personnel grinned at me and pointed at my back saying, "look who's behind you."
And wow - I didn't realize i was surrounded by the Stars at broad daylight. Haha - directly behind me were famous showbiz personalities in the Philippines led by the famous director Maryo J. de los Reyes. It was not until Ejay (the Big Winner of Big Brother's Teen Edition) approached the counter that I realized who he was with. The Big Brother group was there including the lovely Katrina Halili and the funny Joross Gamboa.
It must be my lucky day. Well, for our friends outside the country, this may sound absurd, but believe me, these young artists are 'idolized' by most of the young Filipinos. (Except for me - denial, hahaha - tho rest assured I am one of those 'young' people LOL).
Anyway, so we waited in Gate 8 for the call to board our plane. Upon hearing cancellations after cancellations of flights, I was becoming restless. Will our flight be cancelled too?
Thirty minutes before our scheduled departure, we were advised to transfer to Gate 5. Flights to Cagayan de Oro and Ozamis who were scheduled to depart minutes before us were postponed and were advised to wait for further instructions.
Flights to Iloilo, Aklan and other areas in Visayas were already cancelled. When there was an announcement of a flight being cancelled and that the passengers need to re-check in at the counter for their ‘protection flight’ (which until now I could not understand), my, I was beginning to get really worried.
Co-passengers going to Butuan where already asking on the status of the weather back home. And when the rain temporarily stopped or at least slowed down (thank God), we were advised to board the plane immediately, which we did.
Assurances of a good weather back home was enough to soothe my worries and the discovery of sharing seats in the plane with the local celebrities (yes, I did sit close with Joross and Katrina), my spirit was lifted.
The take off was okay and I was starting to relax especially with free showbiz gossip straight from the celebrities themselves, haha.
I was surprised to see them friendly since I have this ‘notion’ that all celebrities want to be given special treatment. Well, except for the fact that they call me ‘ate’. Ouch - an affirmation that I really am getting older.
Then, the nightmare began.
After 20 minutes or so, the plane began to shake badly.
Oh my, what now?
Subconsciously, I was bracing myself for a ‘bumpy’ ride because of the typhoon but I never expected it to be this bumpy.
My guess was that, we were already passing Visayas where the typhoon was strongest. Even though it was 11 o’clock in the morning, we couldn’t see much outside because of the dark clouds. Being in the window side worsen the situation.
I had been to flights like these before which helped me control my fears. However, the prolonged shaking of the plane as if we were in some carnival ride was getting on my nerves already.
The passengers in the plane became silent. I’ve temporarily forgotten I was ‘flying with the stars’. I was focused on my prayers. I can hear my seatmates praying too.
That time, we were all equals - " at the mercy of Mother Nature and God’s protection.
I guess when you’re faced with uncertainty and life and death situation, your life flashed before you and you ask yourself ‘ Am I ready to go?’ What will happen to my family?’ and then you say: ‘Oh, Lord, not now please.’
And then finally, the shaking gradually lessened and stopped. Seeing the ‘fasten seatbelt sign off’ was a very wonderful thing.
Well " until the second shaking. ‘Not again!’
I do not know how long we we’re on that situation. It seemed like eternity. Funny, when I left for the airport this morning, I did not think we will have a battle with Typhoon Frank. It was too late to realize that maybe I should have thought better of flying with a typhoon brewing (ah - always the impulsive, unthinking me).
After almost like an eternity of a ‘tug-of-war with Typhoon Frank’ we again saw light and finally reached Northeast Mindanao.
None verbalized the fear they had during the ordeal but the relief is very well evident in the passengers’ eyes upon arrival in the airport.
Oh my, was I very glad to see my hometown and my family again.
I can never forget Typhoon Frank especially learning on Sunday that the ship MV Princess of the Stars carrying 800 passengers and crew sank on that same morning we were battling the typhoon. Yeah, the ship started to sank late Saturday morning ��" the same time our plane started shaking badly.
I was relieved to be alive but also very much saddened that many of my countrymen suffered worse fate. This is indeed the worst tragedy this year.
There is however an odd thing about the ship tragedies involving Sulpicio Lines - " they happened decade after decade. Consider this:
1987 - " MV Doña Paz collided with an oil tanker killing 4, 000 people
1998 - " MV Princess of the Orient sank killing 150 people
2008 - " MV Princess of the Stars sank with 700 feared dead (hopefully number of survivors will increase)
Oh, this blog maybe the saddest one I’ll ever write but this would be a reminder to all that there are always risks in traveling and our most unpredicted enemy is nature’s wrath.
Hopefully, everything will return to normal. Filipinos helping each other in areas hit by typhoons as well as aid coming from other countries is heart warming.
Returning back to Manila this Tuesday and taking another flight on the same route 2 days after that unforgettable experience had me face-to-face with my fear of flights but I have to brave it otherwise I will forever have a phobia on flying.
My prayers now are with the families of the victims Typhoon Frank had left behind and with my colleagues deployed in the areas for the relief operations.
Funny, it was one of those rare moments when I have celebrities as seatmates on my flight and yet, the typhoon had ruined such moment. Ironic indeed.
I’m supposed to be complaining but thinking of the many typhoon victims, now, I am just feeling so blessed and relieved that I was able to come back home alive and in one piece.